LAVAL (December 28, 2018) – The Laval Rocket played their second of three games in three days on Friday night at Place Bell, where they defeated the Charlotte Checkers 4-2 in the first of their back-to-back games against one another. Daniel Audette, Alex Belzile, and Hunter Shinkaruk each picked up two points in the Rocket’s victory, and goaltender Connor LaCouvee made 22 saves in his Laval Rocket debut.
Joël Bouchard’s players wasted no time giving themselves a lead over the first place overall Checkers in the first period by netting three of their ten shots. Some tic-tac-toe passing from Belzile and Daniel Audette resulted in Lukas Vejdemo’s fifth of the season at 6:23. Audette jammed Michael McCarron’s rebound through the legs of Alex Nedeljkovic six minutes later for he and Belzile’s second point of the period, and with just over a minute remaining to the first frame, Nikita Jevpalovs passed the puck to Shinkaruk who was alone in front of Nedeljkovic and tipped it in.
Greg McKegg put the Checkers on the board a little less than halfway through the second period when his wrist shot on the powerplay found its way behind a screened Connor LaCouvee, who earned the second star honours in the win. Charlotte’s second goal came with about five minutes left in the period and they had what appeared to be a sure goal one minute later, but LaCouvee snatched the puck with his glove at the last second for a save of the year candidate.
“Yeah, that was pretty cool,” said LaCouvee of his spectacular save after the game. “I kind of thought the whistle blew to be honest, but I just saw [Saku Maenalanen] winding up and I thought, why not? Might as well, right?”
Shinkaruk was sprung by David Sklenicka as he exited the penalty box late in the third and he took advantage of the opportunity to roof his second puck of the night, effectively shutting down Charlotte’s comeback attempt and locking in the final score of 4-2.
“I think we came out strong in the first period,” explained Alex Belzile after the game. “We came out like we wanted. We had to play the right way, and from the beginning we got pucks deep in their zone.”
LAV: Vejdemo (Belzile, Audette) |Audette (McCarron, Belzile) |Shinkaruk (Jevpalovs, Martineau) | Shinkaruk (Sklenicka)
CHA: McKegg|Robertson (Geekie, Wesley)
Goaltenders: LAV: LaCouvee (22/24) | CHA: Nedelijkovic (16/20)
Rocket Power play: 0/4|Rocket Penalty Kill: 3/4
Three Stars: 1. Hunter Shinkaruk – LAV | 2. Connor LaCouvee – LAV | 3. Daniel Audette – LAV